General Nutters

The nut jobs are out in force with various fanciful theories related to C19, mostly designed to deflect criticism of Dear Leader Trump’s inept response and idiotic press statements. Bill Gates is a recent target.

Mr. Gates, 64, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, has now become the star of an explosion of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. In posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.

Apparently the fact that he gave a TED talk a few years ago is reason enough to have nutters foaming at the mouth.

How long more?

Der Speigel has an interesting interview with Dr. Gabriel Leung, Hong Kong epidemiologist, going over his thoughts on how we start coming out of lockdown - balancing the economic impact against the ongoing impact of the virus.

The baseline is: Every year, the flu kills a lot of people in Europe, thousands, even tens of thousands. But you don’t get a riot every year. So, it seems to be acceptable to people to deal with that level of morbidity and mortality. Nobody likes it, but it is tolerated. Nobody asks for zero flu deaths. But if you exceed the capacity of your ICUs, then you would be breaching a very red line. So, somewhere between what people tolerate by implication every year and having completely overwhelmed ICUs like in New York City, somewhere between these extremes lie your tolerance levels.

Contact Tracing Apps

Governments are busy building apps to help with contact tracing via Bluetooth, which are hampered by the phone’s privacy protections. Normally we do not want to be tracked, so iOS in particular places sever restrictions on how an app can use Bluetooth in the background, rendering most contact-tracing apps useless.

But the policies, unveiled last week, apply only to apps that don’t result in the creation of a centralised database of contacts. That means that if the NHS goes ahead with its original plans, its app would face severe limitations on its operation.

The app would not work if the phone’s screen was turned off or if an app other than the contact tracer was being used at the same time. It would require the screen to be active all the time, rapidly running down battery life, and would leave users’ personal data at risk if their phone was lost or stolen while the app was in use.

Australia launched its app yesterday despite the above issues. It doesn’t work on iPhones unless it’s on screen. Apple and Google are working on their own interoperable changes to allow contact tracing apps to work in the background, but only in a strictly anonymised mode, so will be interesting to see how that fits in with various Governments’ plans.